Click here to join the effort!
1. Hoarded Wealth: 5:1-6
2. The Need For Patience: 5:7-11
3. Oaths: 5:12
4. Prayer For the Sick: 5:13-16
5. Example of Elijah: 5:17-18
6. Straying From The Truth: 5:19-20
1. Introductory Comments:
The first question we are confronted with as we enter this chapter is whether James is addressing rich non-Christians, Christians or both. 1. The rich mentioned in 1:10-11 were members of the Church, while the rich man mentioned in 2:2 could have been a non-Christian visitor. While the rich in verses 5:1-6 are not directly or specifically called upon to repent, I believe that the door to repentance was open. In fact repentance was the only way to avoid the coming condemnation ( Act_17:30 ). 2. In the Old Testament the prophets often addressed and included judgments against the unbelieving world in their writings. The book of Isaiah contains judgments against many non-Jewish nations, Babylon (13:3), Philistia (14:28), Moab (15:1), Damascus (17:1), Ethiopia (18:1), and Tyre and Sidon (23:1). 3. Clearly these verses apply to any greedy individual among the wealthy, Christian or non-Christian. 4. Roberts writes, "It certainly would be a warning to any Christian who might be tempted to act in the wrong way…..But the probable purpose which James had in mind was to put such unjust people in the proper perspective before the church. Those who suffer as Christians from the hands of such people are not to envy the rich…..They are to see these sinful people for what they are in God's sight: wretched people fattening themselves for a day of slaughter" (pp. 180-181). Jesus pointed out that even religious people often make the mistake of trying to combine a love for God with a love for wealth ( Mat_6:24 ). In addition, it is clear that some of the Christians which James addresses thought too much of wealth and were holding the wealthy on a pedestal (2:1ff).
To this day Christians are tempted to envy the wealthy ( Psa_73:1-28 ). It is a common temptation to glorify those who seem self sufficient and above the aches and pains of daily living. Our society especially is captivated by the person who wheels and deals, wines and dines, makes the big bucks, and doesn't care what man or God thinks about him.
5:1 "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you".
"Come now" -the same expression is found in 4:13. "It is a set phrase, an interjection to gain attention….it is somewhat like our "come, come now" (Roberts p. 175). "It summons the ones addressed to give careful attention to what will be said" (Kent p. 168). These rich people thought of themselves as invincible, untouchable, able to steal from their employees and get away with it (5:4).
"you rich" -once again, there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich. Rich Christians did exist ( 1Ti_6:17 ff). "James does not condemn riches, nor does the Bible anywhere condemn those who have material possessions. Rather, the Bible condemns the ungodly way that people gain their possessions and use them…. .And we don't have to be rich to be possessed by riches . A lot of poor folk are obsessed with material things" (Draper p. 142). "Those who have understood Christianity as being anti-wealth and anti-property have misunderstood it. It is the wrong use of wealth and the acquisition of wealth in the wrong manner which are condemned….James is speaking of wealth acquired by robbing laborers of their just wages" (Roberts p. 180).
Points To Note:
1. Kent reminds us, "Wealth itself is a relative term. All of us know persons who are economically better off than we, and we tend to regard them as "rich" in contrast to ourselves…..Experience in traveling abroad quickly brings the recognition that Americans are more affluent than much of the world and makes one wonder about the exercise of his own stewardship" (p. 168). Which should make us realize that compared to the rest of the world, we might find ourselves in the "rich" category. 2. Greed, and gaining wealth by underhanded means is a temptation for Christians just like everyone else ( Tit_1:7 ; 1Co_5:10 ). 3. A good number of Christians would like to have more money, but we need to realize that money brings many serious responsibilities and its own set of temptations. Wealth can be used properly, but it has also destroyed a good number of people ( 1Ti_6:8-10 ). 4. Some of us think that Christianity would be easier if we had more money and didn't have to worry about the bills. The truth of the matter is, many of us are eventually going to inherit some wealth---and we had better work on a relationship with God before that happens! 5. I have always liked Pro_30:8-9 . The potential for being greedy is lurking inside each one of us, regardless of how much money we have or don't have. If we aren't wealthy, the temptation is to envy the wealthy, idolize them, and long for the day that we can have a whole bunch of stuff.
"weep and howl" -the tense in the Greek is a command which points to something to be done immediately, "Burst into weeping" (Robertson p. 57). "Weep"-mourn, lament, a loud expression of grief. "Howl"-which means to wail and cry aloud, to shriek. "These two strong words indicate the frantic terror of those on whom God's judgment has fallen….Any person who builds his life only upon the physical things of this life will come to know this kind of despair" (Draper p. 143). While there isn't any specific call to repentance, I believe we could say that as long as there is life, repentance is an option. Jonah's message to Ninevah didn't contain a command to repent, but God accepted their repentance ( Jon_3:4 ; Jon_3:9-10 ), compare with Jer_18:7-8 . "if the rich understood their coming fate, they would literally shriek over the prospect" (Roberts p. 182). Compare with Isa_13:6 ; Isa_14:31 ; Isa_15:2 ; Isa_23:1 ; Isa_23:6 ; Isa_23:14 ).
"for your miseries which are coming upon you" -"Miseries"-"hardship, trouble, calamity" (Thayer p. 614); "wretchedness, distress" (Arndt p. 803). "Which are coming upon you"-the idea is of certain destruction ( Heb_10:27 "but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment").
Points To Note:
1. Some think that the above miseries applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, but Woods notes, "But, the physical suffering of the poor (who, of course, greatly outnumbered the rich) was as intense in those terrible days as that of the rich; and it seems better to conclude that this is simply a picture of the retribution and judgment which shall come, at the end of the age" (Roberts p. 257). 2. The Holy Spirit certainly believed in the existence of hell and that hell is a place of miseries-not annihilation. See Act_24:25 "and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified"; Rom_2:8-9 ; Hebrews 10:28-29. 3 . Wealth can't protect us from the coming judgment.
5:2 "Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten".
"have rotted" -"make corrupt, destroy" (Vine p. 243); "cause to rot, decay, decay" (Arndt p. 749). "In Oriental lands, riches, in addition to gold, silver, and precious stones, consisted of highly perishable goods, such as grain, oil, food, and garments of many types and kinds" (Woods p. 259).
"your garments have become moth-eaten" -"Eastern people have always reckoned collections of raiment among their choice treasures, and estimate them in the accounts of their wealth along with silver and gold" (Manners/Customs, Freeman p. 213).
Points To Note:
1. "Of course, as these wealthy men looked at their goods, it did not appear to them this way at all. Their barns were well cared for and the grain protected. Their robes sparkled with lavish care and the finest of fabrics. James was looking with a prophet's eye, seeing things from God's point of view. He saw judgment as already in progress and man's opulence revealed as temporal at best, subject to swift destruction" (Kent p. 170). 2. The thought in these verses also seems to be that a tremendous amount of wealth was being hoarded, which is an abuse of wealth ( Luk_16:19 ff). 3. Jesus made similar comments in Mat_6:19-24 . Davids writes, "Temporality is one side of the coin, but the very temporality of goods points to their being withheld from the service for which God intended them" (p. 176). 4. The Bible often comments upon the temporary nature of wealth, probably because mankind insists on believing that wealth is the cure for all problems and can deliver us from all trials ( Ecc_2:19 ; Ecc_5:10-15 ; Pro_11:4 "Riches profit not in the day of wrath"; 23:4 "For wealth certainly makes itself wings"; 27:24; Mar_4:19 ; Luk_12:15 ).
5:3 "Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!"
"Your gold and your silver have rusted" -"In the judgment, their corrupted wealth will stand as a witness to their misuse of God's provision. No excuses will undo the evidence of their hoarded wealth, which was used only for selfish luxury, not for assisting others" (Kent p. 170). "The whole picture of these three basic types of wealth is the picture of wealth unused" (Draper p. 144). "There is no book which condemns dishonest and selfish wealth with such searing passion as the Bible does…( Amo_3:10 ; Amo_5:11 ; Amo_8:4-7 ; Isa_5:8 )" (Barclay p. 137). Once again, in the sight of God, their wealth was corrupted. Silver and gold do not rust, but they can corrode.
"their rust will be a witness against you" -"evidence against you" (RSV), "it will serve as a proof of your wickedness" (Thayer p. 392), "that which serves as testimony or proof" (Arndt p. 493). "The witness is about the non-use of the materials; the rust becomes the proof of their sin" (Roberts p. 184) The same condemnation is found in Luk_16:19 ff; Luk_12:17-19 .
"and will consume your flesh like fire" -"burning into your flesh" (Bas). 1. "As rust eats through, and destroys metal, so the greed, avarice and love for money which characterized these people would destroy them" (Woods p. 261). 2. "What happens to our riches, our clothes, our gold and silver is but a symbol of what is happening to our soul. That wealth that soon slips through our fingers, that we cannot hold on to, is but a symbol of what is happening in our heart" (Draper pp. 144-145). 3. The fire here refers to the fires of hell ( Mat_5:29 ; Mat_22:1-46 ; Mat_10:28 ).
"It is in the last days" -"You have been building the wrong kind of treasure" (Draper p. 146). "These people have treasured up as if they would live and the world would go on forever" (Davids p. 177). The phrase "last days" can refer to the Christian age ( Heb_1:1-2 ; Act_2:17 ; 1Pe_1:20 ), which naturally includes the whole period of time up until the Lord's return( Joh_6:39-40 ; Joh_6:44 ; Joh_6:54 ; Joh_11:24 ; Joh_12:48 ). Of course, we must reject the view that the apostles and other inspired writers thought Jesus had to come within their lifetime. Such would contradict their claim to inspiration and go against what they actually did teach ( 1Th_5:1-3 ; 2Th_2:1 ff). The treasure they have stored up will only condemn them at the judgment. But the death of Christ did begin a period of time known as the last days ( Act_2:17 ), and during this period of time Jesus could come at any time.
"you have stored up your treasure!" -How many people today are making the same mistake? All their plans are concerning this earth and this earthly life and all their efforts are towards those ends. There is so much talk today about IRA's, social security, investment in the stock market, and so on. Where is your treasure? What have you been heavily investing in and what are you depending on? What is your true security?
5:4 "Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth".
"Behold" -(see, consider, take notice of).
"the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you" -mowing a field is a general term for reaping. "The laborers were, therefore, farm workers who toiled in the fields for the rich " (Woods p. 263). "Withheld by you"-The Law of Moses had condemned those who retained the wages of hired workmen even for one night ( Lev_19:13 ), see also Jer_22:13 , Deu_24:14-15 ; Job_7:1-2 ; Job_24:10 ; Job_31:38-40 ; Mal_3:5 . One of Jesus' parables reflected the proper practice of paying workers daily ( Mat_20:1-16 ). One cannot say that the Bible presents a morality which is only affordable or practical for the rich or middle class, for the Bible is filled with legislation designed to protect the poor. God is extremely concerned with how we treat the less fortunate or the vulnerable.
"cries out against you" -Like the blood of Abel ( Gen_4:10 ), this stolen money cries out for justice. Which should make us think, does any of our money or possessions cry out to God for justice? Have we been dishonest with others, have we failed to pay our debtors or have we failed to give to God as we should?
"and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord" -God hears the cries of people who are being oppressed and taken advantage of by others. "The ears of the Lord is simply a vivid……way of saying God listens and responds to his people" (Adamson p. 186).
Points To Note:
1. The righteous can take comfort in these words, for eventually someone will try to rip us off. Our car or house might be broken into or vandalized, we might run into a dishonest merchant, mechanic, or salesperson. But people don't get away with their misdeeds, and eventually God will judge! 2. Here is tremendous incentive as why we shouldn't envy those who are slick and sly, whatever money they do get from us----isn't worth the price of their soul. We haven't be ripped off-they have, by the devil himself. If someone intentionally sells me a lemon, I might lose a couple thousand, but the underhanded individual has lost much more. 3. In the end, every misdeed will be repaid ( 2Co_5:10 ), and nobody will have gotten away with anything ( Gal_6:7 ff).
"the Lord of Sabaoth" -"Sabaoth"-"is the transliteration of a Hebrew word which denotes hosts or armies (note: it is not the same as the word Sabbath )….came to designate Him as the One who is supreme over all the innumerable hosts of spiritual agencies, or of what are described as the 'armies of heaven'" (Vine p. 311). That is, "The Lord Of Hosts". "the most majestic title you can find for God in the Old Testament. It speaks of the Almighty God and his sovereign omnipotence. It is a word that applies to the King, the Leader of the armies of heaven….You might think their cries have gone unheeded and that they have no champion on earth. But their champion is none other than the Lord God Almighty" (Draper p. 146). And if the Almighty hears such cries then you can be sure that something will be done! "The original idea was that of God fighting on the side of Israel to vindicate their cause and give them victory in battle ( 1Sa_15:2 ; Isa_2:12 ; 2Sa_5:10 ; Psa_59:5 ). But the idea was extended to include the hosts of angels which God might send forth to carry out His will ( Jos_5:14 ; 2Ki_6:14 )…..The reference here then means that the same omnipotent God who fought with Israel and whose word even the hosts of angels carried out in heaven has listened and heard the cries of injustice" (Roberts p. 187). The same God who destroyed the armies of Egypt, rooted out the Canaanites----is the God who hears such injustices.
Point To Note:
Before we lump ourselves automatically in the category of these oppressed workers, we need to seriously ask ourselves if we are or have cheated anyone. Have we ran out on our bills, have we left creditors holding the bag, have we borrowed from relatives and friends without ever repaying them? Are we up front and honest in our dealings with others? On this point I have always liked the following comment in connection with Rom_13:7-8 : "I have known of those who make large donations to Church treasuries while they leave unforgiven creditors to beg for money the Christian owes them. There is a foolish idea abroad that money given into Church treasuries is more appreciated by God than the paying of honest debts……We're doing God no favors if we drive the unforgiven creditor to believe that God approves of thieves so long as they contribute to some Church budget. Spend your money wisely; live within your means; keep in mind the spreading of the Gospel and the needs of the poor and needy" (Romans, Jim McGuiggan pp. 384-385).
5:5 "You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."
"You have lived luxuriously" -"a soft and luxurious life" (Thayer p. 631); "give oneself up to pleasure" (Vine p. 288); "lead a life of luxury or self-indulgence, revel, carouse (Arndt p. 828). Like the plans which the rich man in Luk_12:19 had for his future, "eat, drink, and be merry". "A second example of their misuse of money is the selfishness and unwarranted opulence with which the wealthy indulged themselves….In this context of James, it has the negative connotation of using wealth solely for display or personal whim" (Kent p. 173). "This is luxurious, extravagant living with no regard for anyone around us" (Draper p. 146).
"on the earth" -this would be the extent of their pleasure seeking.
"led of life of wanton pleasure" -( 1Ti_5:6 ). "live luxuriously or voluptuously, in indulgence" (Arndt p. 761). "It is the condemnation of the selfish rich that they have used their possessions to gratify their own love of comfort, and to satisfy their own lusts, and they have forgotten all duty to their fellow-man" (Barclay p. 140). Apparently the wages that had been withheld, were used for selfish purposes. The idea of wasteful indulgence. "To give oneself to pleasure" (Thayer p. 583). Many people in our current society, and too many members of the Church are sadly---- people who are addicted to pleasure and spend the vast majority of their resources solely on themselves.
Point To Note:
Woods reminds us, "It is well to take note of the fact that the word here used does not denote a wicked and sinful life, per se….One does not have to live a sinful life (or what we uselessly think of when we use the term "sinful life") to fall under the censure of the Lord…if we live indolently, selfishly, uselessly, our lives are not pleasing in the sight of God" (p. 266). There are a good number of people who never commit fornication or adultery, and yet who live purely for themselves. The rich men of Luk_16:1-31 or Luk_12:1-59 were not necessarily immoral men (engaging in all sorts of immoral activities), rather they were simply ignoring the needs of others, which is just as immoral in the sight of God.
"you have fattened your hearts" -"gratified your appetite" (Wey). Supplied themselves with everything they desired, pampered themselves. They have engaged in the business of fattening themselves, taking care of their own needs, doing what they wanted to do, looking out for number one.
"in a day of slaughter" -a life spent on fattening "self" is simply fattening yourself for condemnation ( Rom_2:1-5 ). "This pictures a steer at the stockyard who is not quite heavy enough to be killed. So they put him in a pen and give him the finest food he could possibly have. That steer is so stupid---he doesn't know he is about to be killed, so he lives only for the pleasure and the cravings that he has. When he gains enough weight, they kill him. That is like the man who takes his possessions, lives as though there were no God and no needs in the world around him" (Draper p. 147). The world is filled with many selfish people who are just like cattle who are gorging themselves and blissfully unaware of coming judgment. Compare with Jer_12:3 ; Jer_25:34 ; Isaiah 32:2,61 ; Eze_21:15 ; Amo_6:1-6 .
Point To Note:
Just because people live like God doesn't exist or that there won't be a judgment day doesn't mean that their selfish lives determine reality or what the truth of the matter is. Judgment will come even though the vast majority might deny it. Reality and truth isn't determined by how the majority or the most influential in this world live.
5:6 "You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you".
"You have condemned and put to death the righteous man" -To condemn is to pronounce guilty. Evidently, the various wealthy and influential individuals had quite a bit of pull in the Roman court system ( Jam_2:6-7 ). The exploitation of the righteous was also denounced by the prophets in the Old Testament ( Amo_2:6 ; Amo_5:10-12 ; Psa_10:8-9 ; Isa_3:14-15 ; Isa_57:1 ). "The episode of Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth provided a graphic example ( 1Ki_21:1-16 )" (Kent p. 174). "The rich long to get rid of those who are a blight upon their conscience; the presence of a godly man will always condemn an ungodly man" (Draper p. 147).
"he does not resist you" -"he offers you no resistance" (Arndt p. 76). Which only heightens the crime of these oppressors. They are persecuting righteous individuals who are not offering physical resistance. See 1Pe_2:18-21 ; Mat_5:38-45 ; Rom_12:19 . Carefully note that this verse isn't teaching that Christians can't defend themselves. But there are times when all our options and means of protection have been removed. This was a persecution sanctioned by the civil government, and in such instances a Christian might not have too many resources with which to defend themselves.
Our Attitude Towards Such Abuse:
5:7 "Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains."
"Be patient, therefore, brethren" -Indicating that a good number of Christians were suffering at the hands of wealthy individuals who were abusing their position and power. This letter has already mentioned the need to be patient (1:3-4, 1:12). Without such endurance we won't make it ( Heb_6:12 ; Heb_12:1 ). See also 1Co_13:4 ; Gal_5:22 and 2Pe_1:6 . It is clear that patience is a quality without which we cannot please God.
Points To Note:
1. We too live in a time when Christians need to be exhorted to be patient. Too many of us have adopted the thinking of the world which says, "I deserve this and I deserve it now!" We live in a society, while claiming to be tolerant is in fact very intolerant. Look at the lawsuits that clog our court system and the acts of personal violence and revenge. 2. "if God, a holy God, can be patient with us in the face of the enormity of our sin, how much more can we be patient in the face of whatever opposition may come our way" (Draper p. 150). 3. "It means to hold one's spirit in check…The believer is not to allow mistreatment and oppression to drive him to hatred, bitterness, or despair. Such feelings might be directed against the persons causing the pressure, or against God, who was allowing it to happen" (Kent p. 176). And it can be a very fine line between being angry at our oppressors---and being angry at God. 4. It is clear that these brethren were not given the right to rise up and attack the rich, they didn't have the right to take the judgment of the wicked into their own hands. Compromise with the world and physically attacking the world are both wrong ( Heb_10:32-39 ; 1Pe_4:12-19 ; Rom_12:9-21 ). There are probably a host of reasons why God doesn't want Christians to organize themselves and retaliate against their oppressors. But one reason has probably already been given us in Jam_1:20 . Retaliation on our part can so easily degenerate into sin. It is so easy to cross the line from innocent victim to guilty oppressor ourselves (see 1Co_6:1-8 ).
"until the coming of the Lord" -While God does from time to time come in physical judgment upon groups of people, such as nations and cities (Jerusalem-A.D. 70, is one example, Mat_24:27 ). And such comings can take the pressure off of Christians by sweeping away or breaking the power of their enemies. This coming appears to be the Second Coming. Which means that the Second Coming, while being a day of deliverance for the righteous, will be a day of condemnation for the wicked ( 2Th_1:7-9 ; 1Th_4:13-18 ; 1Th_5:1-3 ).
"Behold, the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains".
The early rain fell in October, November, and December, and extended in January and February. "The first showers of autumn which revived the parched and thirsty soil and prepared it for the seed; and the later showers of spring which continued to refresh and forward both the ripening crops and the vernal products of the field" (Pulpit Comm. p. 69). The latter rains are much lighter and they fall in March and April.
This illustration would especially be relevant to this audience, for some of them were laborers in the field. They understood the patience of the farmer. The farmer does not expect to harvest on the same day he has planted. He may suffer several disappointments or set backs before he receives a harvest. "Just as the farmer can know that the Lord is going to send the rain for the crops, so we can know the Lord is going to send his Son once again. Just as the farmer trusts the final outcome to the Lord who sends the rain, we can trust God for the final outcome of our lives" (Draper p. 150).
5:8 "You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand".
"You too be patient" -For God's judgment is just as certain at the rain! "The point is not the length of time one must wait….but whether one will endure the period of waiting" (Davids p. 184). Be patient like the farmer, don't panic, but realize that God will deliver!
"strengthen your hearts" -"strengthen, make firm, confirm one's mind" (Thayer p. 588). To be fixed and confirmed in one's belief ( Rom_1:11 ; Rom_16:25 ; 1Th_3:2 ; 1Th_3:13 , 2Th_2:17 ; 2Th_3:3 ; 1Pe_5:10 , 2Pe_1:12 , Rev_3:2 ). Strengthen your emotions, wishes, and desires. Cultivate endurance and a strong dependence upon God.
"for the coming of the Lord is at hand" -According to the Scriptures the Second Coming is always "at hand", for it could come at any time ( 1Th_5:1-3 ). In their generation, what was also at hand was the judgment of God upon the Jewish nation.
Points To Note:
Christians today need a greater awareness that Jesus could come at any time ( 1Jn_3:1-3 ). "If we knew Jesus Christ was coming back today, it would make a profound difference in what we do today. There are acts of obedience and commitments…that we would waste no time doing. If we thought we had only one worship service to attend before the Lord returned, it would make a difference in how we worship. If we lived in the expectancy of the return of Jesus Christ, we would be equipped for the pressures and the trials of life. We are to live in that kind of expectation" (Draper p. 151).
This isn't speculating about the Lord's return---rather it is living as if Jesus could come at any time-which is the truth of the matter. Living as if each day were our last, living as if our non-Christian neighbors could be facing judgment tomorrow.
Years ago I ran across the following. It is called the infidel's challenge to us:
"If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of Christianity in this life influences destiny in another world, Christianity would be to me, everything. I would cast aside earthly cares as follies and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Christianity would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I would labor in its cause alone. Earthly consequences should never stay my hands or seal my lips. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a lifetime of effort. I would go forth to the world and preach Christ in season and out of season, and my text would be, 'for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'"
5:9 "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door".
"Do not complain" -"Present active imperative, "stop groaning against one another" (Robertson p. 62). "Troubles tend to make the impatient complain against even those closest to them" (Roberts p. 194). "Hostility from others is not easily endured. James was well aware of the human propensity to lash out in retaliation, or at least to complain against real or imagined instigators" (Kent p. 178). Complaining is a very real temptation and various professed believers haven't faired very well when facing hardship ( 1Co_10:1-12 ).
"against one another" -"Sometimes, when we are bombarded by problems of those outside of…our family, our church….our tempers often get short with each other. Sometimes we take our frustrations out on those closest to us….'Do not let the pressure that is brought to bear on you from outside cause you to be unchristian with each other'…..The picture is very clear. Imagine a member of a first-century church being arrested because of his commitment to Christ. Another member is not arrested. It was probably hard for the one who was thrown in jail to have a kind attitude toward the one who was free. James says, 'Don't look at someone else and complain because they are not suffering as you are. Don't try to involve others in your misery.' " (Draper p. 152).
"that you yourselves may not be judged" -( Mat_7:1-5 ). Again, hypocritical, hypercritical, and judging from wrong motives is under consideration. Those who complain and murmur and take their anger and frustration out on others are in danger of facing divine condemnation. God isn't impressed with people who complain. We may be suffering, but once we start complaining and murmuring against others, we are not longer playing the role of an innocent victim.
"behold, the Judge is standing right at the door" -"literally, 'is standing before the doors' (perfect active indicative), and thus ready to execute sentence" (Woods p. 280).
Point To Note:
The above expression doesn't mean that James believed that Jesus was going to come that day. Rather, Jesus stands ready to judge and could come at any moment. "the day of retribution for the evil is certain and sure and the one who shall administer punishment should be regarded as at the door, ready to enter at any time…..It was therefore vitally important that those to whom James wrote should open the door without advance notice and discover that instead of waiting patiently and faithfully for him they were fretful, dissatisfied and morose, and engaged in quarrels among themselves" (Woods p. 280). "The reminder that 'the Judge is standing right at the door' should be a caution that judgment may not be some hazy, theoretical, far-distant event" (Kent p. 178). Compare with Rev_3:20 ; 1Pe_4:5 "who is ready to judge the living and the dead". Note that Christians are here warned, indicating that we can end up condemned if we become unfaithful.
5:10 "As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord".
"As an example" -a model, pattern, "in a good sense as something that does or should spur one on to imitate it" (Arndt p. 34).
"take the prophets" -See 2Ch_36:16 ; 1Ki_19:10 ; Mat_23:29-31 ; Act_7:52 . "Most of them were persecuted severely in their lifetime, despite the fact that they were God's messengers ( Mat_5:11-12 )" (Kent p. 179). Draper notes, "In essence, James says, "Surely, if anyone ought to have a good time in life and ought to avoid suffering, the prophets would be the ones. Yet they suffered too.' This is a side of Christianity that we do not like to think about-----the suffering side. We like to think that when we are saved, everything is going to be glorious….When we get a new Savior, we also get a new enemy" (p. 153).
Points To Note:
1. The prophets spoke in the name of the Lord or by the Lord's authority, therefore their messages were inspired ( 2Pe_1:20-21 ). 2. It is a myth to think that faithfulness will prevent bad things in this life from happening to us. Many people in the past have suffered for doing the right thing ( Act_14:22 ; 1Ti_3:12 ). 3. Since the prophets spoke the truth and were persecuted (often by professed believers in God) we must realize that everyone isn't going to embrace and admit the truth when they hear it. We must reject the idea that the truth is what most people believe or that the "mainstream" is to be always equated with the narrow way ( Mat_7:13-14 ).
5:11 "Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful".
"we counted those blessed who endured" -"Endured"-"remain instead of fleeing, stand one's ground, hold out, endure in trouble, affliction, persecution" (Arndt p. 845). Note: We count them blessed now, when the long-range goal is kept in mind, we can see that endurance is more than worth it ( Rom_8:18 ). See ( Mat_10:22 ; 2Ti_2:12 ; Jam_1:12 ; 1Pe_2:20 ).
"You have heard of the endurance of Job" -Job was a real historical person. And the account of his life and trials in the book of Job is exactly what happened in this man's life. Note the details which are endorsed by James. His name was Job, he endured trials, and the outcome was extremely compassionate and merciful. Compare with Eze_14:14 ; Eze_14:20 .
Point To Note:
We need to remember that Job didn't always handle his sufferings in a perfect manner ( Job_3:3 ; Job_3:11 ). And yet he never gave into his wife's suggestion to curse God and die (2:9). In spite of all the agonizing questions which tore at his heart, Job maintained his faith in God (13:15; 19:25). And maybe more importantly than anything else, when God confronted Job about some of the wrong things which Job had said ( Job_38:1-41 ; Job_39:1-30 ; Job_40:1-24 ; Job_41:1-34 ), Job immediately acknowledged his ignorance and sin (42:1-6). Job is a man who has many questions, who is hurting, has lost wealth, children, the confidence of his wife and close friends, who humbly accepts a rebuke from the God who has let this all happen to him! The good news is that even though we might fail to react to suffering in a godly manner, we can at any point during the trial acknowledge our sin and benefit from the trial. If we have a bad day during a trial, if we blow it---the case isn't hopeless, we can repent and handle the trial as we should today!
"and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings" -"that by which a thing is finished, its close, issue, the closing experience that befell Job" (Thayer p. 620). Remember, there is always a "outcome" to any suffering there is "an end", even if that end is death ( Rev_2:10 ).
"that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" -"how full of tenderness and pity the Lord is" (Wey). "Rich in compassion" (Arndt p. 687). "'Tenderness' is a word which speaks of compassion and sympathy. 'Mercy' just intensifies that and speaks of an abundantly compassionate and sympathetic God" (Draper p. 154). "Even though circumstances seemed exactly opposite to this, Job's endurance enabled him to see that God's blessings were abundant if one was willing to let God choose the time and bestow them. Eventually God doubled Job's possessions ..…( Job_42:10-17 )" (Kent p. 180). Once again, be impressed that all of this agrees exactly with what we find recorded in the book of Job. And note that God is very merciful with Job, even though Job had slipped up! God is willing to bless us if we will only repent. How often do we fail to receive God's blessings, how often do we thwart God's purposes by turning to a hasty and sinful course of behavior? We need to learn to have the patience that is willing allow God to determine when the hardship will end or let up.
5:12 "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment".
"But above all" -especially (Robertson p. 63). James is not saying that the abusing of oaths is worse than murder or adultery, but in light of the context, "in all one's attempts to avoid expressing impatience toward tormentors, he should first of all avoid swearing" (Kent p. 181). "he is saying that the most common response of the human heart to problems and difficulties is to say the wrong thing" (Draper p. 154). Note****Suffering doesn't exempt us from the need to control our speech. Unfortunately, some people seem to think that harsh and sinful words spoken during the heat of battle are excused or morally justified.
"do not swear" -"to affirm, promise, threaten, with an oath" (Thayer p. 444). Jesus emphasized the same truth ( Mat_5:34 ).
"either by heaven or by earth" -"Much evidence exists that oathtaking was greatly abused at that time---not only in the form of profanity, whereby God's name was employed meaninglessly in flippant swearing, but also in the clever schemes of the rabbis to explain some formulas are more binding than others" (Kent pp. 181-182). "There was a distinction---especially in the Jewish world---between oaths which were binding and oaths which were not binding…..The result of this was that men became experts in evasive swearing; and it became a matter of skill and sharp practice to find an oath which was not binding" (Barclay p. 149). (See Mat_23:16-22 ).
Points To Note:
1. "The danger is that when we use God's name in swearing, we are calling God to be a witness to what we are about to say. So we are asking God to give sanction to our lies, to our exaggerations, to our arrogance, to our pride" (Draper pp. 154-155). 2. "Furthermore, to swear by one's own head implied that failure to comply with the oath would bring some catastrophe upon him, but this is not within man's control" (Kent p. 181). 3. Hence it is arrogant to say, "If I am not telling the truth, may God strike me"-as if we can tell God what to do! This is just as arrogant as planning the future without God (4:13-17). 4. "the value of an oath depends to a large extent on the fact that it is very seldom necessary to take one. Its impressiveness lies in its exceptional character…..the practice of taking frequent oaths was nothing other than a proof of the prevalence of lying and cheating and falsehood and swindling" (Barclay p. 149). 5. Please note that God has nothing against oaths per se. They were allowed in the Old Testament ( Lev_19:12 ; Num_30:2 ). God Himself has used oaths ( Gen_22:16 ; Psa_110:4 ; Heb_6:13 ). Both Jesus ( Mat_8:12 ; Mat_26:63 ) and Paul either used or submitted to oaths at various times ( Rom_1:9 ; 1Th_5:27 ). Hence we cannot say that submitting to an oath in a court of law is a violation of this passage. In addition, marriage vows are oaths. Rather, like Jesus, James seems to be condemning: A. Rash statements made during hardship or before one's accusers. B. Calling down divine threats upon one's opponents. C. The abuse of making oaths.
"or with any other oath" -that is, another of the same sort. People swore by all sorts of things besides heaven or earth.
"but let your yes be yes, and your no, no" -Kent notes, "the point is clear that the believer's word should always be trustworthy without the need of an oath to make it believable. If reaction against accusers causes one to implicate God in his defense and to demand that God prove His support by some direct intervention that the swearer decides upon, the speaker has gone too far" (pp. 183-184). "Today it is hard to get people to say yes or no to anything. They want to ride the fence. Many of us have a hard time making a commitment. We say we have committed our lives to God, but we don't act like it, we don't live like it" (Draper p. 155). It is tempting to hedge what we say, to give ourselves a loophole out of a commitment we have made. But our yes is to mean yes, not perhaps or maybe.
"so that you may not fall under judgment" -"come under condemnation" (Thayer p. 510). 1. To make an oath or vow and then not to keep it is another form of lying ( Ecc_5:2 ). 2. The careless and flippant use of the name of God can also bring us under condemnation ( Deu_5:7-11 ). Once again we are reminded that we need to watch what we say especially during stressful times. Being in pain and under pressure is not an excuse to unbridle our tongue. God doesn't allow us to say anything we want when we are suffering. Profanity, taking the name of God in vain is still a sin when we are in the midst of hardship.
Point To Note:
Seeing that God is very concerned about His name being attached to various oaths, He certainly isn't pleased when we attach His name to a cuss word or use His name in a careless and flippant manner. We should cease from using the statements "O God" or "God" as expressions of surprise or frustration. The same is true for the name of Jesus. Woods reminds us that such expressions as Gee Whiz, Gosh, Egad, Golly, Good Gracious, My Goodness and Good Grief in times past were all mild forms of simply saying 'God' or 'Jesus'.
5:13 "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises."
"Let him pray" -"one should not frivolously swear in times of adversity, but he should rather pray…. It is not suggested that the only kind of praying is to request deliverance. It is also appropriate to pray for strength to endure. Prayer in its highest sense of communion with God and adoration of Him must recognize His hand in all aspects of life" (Kent pp. 186-187). Present middle imperative, 'let him keep on praying'-instead of cursing or calling down a curse on his persecutors. In the context there is incentive to pray, for God hears the prayers of righteous people who are being oppressed (5:4). And in the end, God is really the only one who can do anything about the situation. In addition, when we pray, we are reminded that the person making our life miserable---also has a soul. It is hard to keep on hating an enemy when you are praying for him ( Mat_5:44 ).
"Is anyone cheerful" -"We have a tendency to remember God when things are not going well and a tendency to forget him when they are going well. Don't do that" (Draper p. 157). "James, then wants God remembered in all situations, good as well as bad. Turning to God in need is half the truth; turning to him in praise either in the church or alone when one is cheerful (whatever the situation) is the other half. God is not just an errand boy to help human need, but one who deserves worship and praise at all times ( Php_4:4 ; Php_4:6 ; Eph_5:20 ; 1Th_5:16-18 )" (Davids p. 192). Be impressed that there is nothing wrong in being cheerful, Christianity wasn't designed to be a gloomy lifestyle.
"Let him sing praises" -"Let him keep on singing" (Robertson p. 64).
Point To Note:
Some have tried to argue that the Greek word rendered "sing praises" means or can mean to sing to the accompaniment of instruments. But in New Testament usage all the experts note that the word meant "to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song" (Thayer p. 675); "to sing a hymn, sing praise" (Vine p. 58); "sing praise" (Arndt p. 891). Compare with Rom_15:9 ; 1Co_14:15 ; Eph_5:19 ; Jam_5:13 .
5:14 "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord;"
"Is anyone among you sick?" -As you probably have guessed there are a number of questions in this section of Scripture. Is this a physical illness or a spiritual illness? While the word translated "sick" is usually used in reference to physical illness, the word translated "sick" in 5:15 is only used for a spiritual condition. The word in this verse literally means to be feeble, sick, weak or lack strength. Arndt says, "of bodily weakness, be sick" (p. 115).
The interpretation of spiritual sickness would allege that here is an individual who may or may not have committed sins (5:15). He might we discouraged or depressed, spiritually weak and calls upon the elders of the church for assistance.
"Let him call for the elders of the church" -Note the personal responsibility that is stressed. "We are not to get sick and then complain that no one cares and comes to see us. We are commanded to call the elders and tell them we are sick. We as a people have a responsibility to inform those who lead us of the needs we have" (Draper p. 159). "The sick person is to take the initiative; others do not do it for him" (Kent p. 188).
Points To Note:
1. The individuals being called are the elders of the local congregation. Far from being an office that "evolved" in the early church, we find a plurality of elders shepherding local congregations early on in the history of the church ( Act_14:23 ). 2. Note that the elders are called, "Nor are these persons priests, as the Catholic Douay Version mistakenly translates" (Kent p. 188). For other passages on elders see Act_20:17 ; Act_20:28 ; Php_1:1 ; Tit_1:5 ff; 1Pe_5:1-3 ; 1Th_5:12 ; Heb_13:17 ; 1Ti_3:1 ff.
"and let them pray over him" -that is to pray on his behalf.
"anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" -Some view this as a figurative expression, i.e. when the elders are praying for him they are figuratively anointing him with oil. To me it seems that the statement is literal, but let it be noted that this doesn't mean that there are inherent miraculous healing properties in the oil being used. This oil is administered by the elders and the healing under consideration is linked with the prayer of faith and not the oil itself (5:15). McGarvey notes, "The anointing of the sick with oil was not expected to contribute to the cure; for, apart from its inadequacy as a remedy, it could not, in the nature of the case, contribute to a miraculous cure. This was the anointing of a man who was about to be cured-----this was preparatory to going forth once more into the enjoyments of life" (Matthew/Mark, p. 301). See Mar_6:3 . Or, in other words the anointing with oil was to a way of saying, "Be prepared to get back to your regular duties in life". Being anointed with oil in that culture was comparable to a person in our culture who has been sick taking a bath, shaving, or putting on makeup-it was a clear indication that you would be getting better. Note that there is nothing magical about the oil, for Jesus healed at times without using any oil ( Mar_7:1-37 , Joh_9:1-41 ).
The Roman Catholic Church appeals to Jam_5:14 to support the doctrine of "Extreme Unction". In this doctrine the anointing is considered a sacrament conveying spiritual grace (assuring pardon of unforgiven sins) to the sick in danger of death. But as Kent notes, "Yet that was clearly not the purpose in mind of James, who gave this procedure for restoration of health, not in preparation for death. Not until the end of the eighth century is there any record in the church of anointing with oil to prepare for imminent death (except among a few Gnostic sects)" (p. 189). Once again note the differences between what James presents and the practice of extreme unction: 1. Elders are called for-not priests. 2. Recovery is promised (5:15), rather than impending death. 3. Forgiveness of sins is not due to the oil, or the prayers of the elders per se. But rather, the person who is sick is demonstrating an attitude of wanting and needing help. 4. This person isn't in the last stages of life, for they have called for the elders.
Christians And Healing
1. Some say that the point of the above passage is that we are to pray and then do everything physically necessary, go see the doctor, take medication, and so on. While such is often true, it isn't the point being made in the above passage. The Bible doesn't have anything against physicians ( Mat_9:12 ), and God can certainly heal through providential means. 2. If the healing in the above passage is physical, then it must be a case of miraculous healing: A. The elders are to be called for and not physicians. B. The person will get better (5:15). 3. It is also clear that such gifts of healing would evidently cease ( 1Co_13:8 ). Once the word was confirmed and revealed, such gifts had served their purpose ( Heb_2:3-4 ). Roberts notes, "Church History confirms this conclusion (i.e. the spiritual gifts ceased), for efforts to revive such gifts in the post-apostolic church (e.g., the Montanists) were considered heresies" (p. 215). 4. If this is physical healing, then the elders are called for because besides the apostles they would be the men most likely to have been endowed with spiritual gifts ( 1Ti_4:14 ).
5:15 "and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him."
"prayer offered in faith" -as opposed to one marked by doubt (1:5-8).
"will restore the one who is sick" -"Restore"-to make well, heal, restore to health. The word translated "restore" is used in a spiritual sense in other passages ( Mat_1:21 ; Mat_10:22 ; Mat_18:11 ; Mar_16:16 ; Rom_10:13 ; Jam_5:20 ).
"the Lord will raise him up" -once again, this isn't an action which is to be performed upon a person just before they die. This individual will be raised up, i.e. raised up to a healthy condition.
"if he has committed sins" -Carefully note that the sickness under consideration isn't inherently the result of ones own sin. See Joh_9:2-3 . Roberts notes, "Sickness will often make men who are sinful more conscious of their spiritual condition. Illness has been the turning point of many lives" (p. 219).
"they will be forgiven him" -Not because the elders have power to forgive sin, but because the person who is sick is humble and is asking for God's help ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ).
Points To Note:
1. Note the differences between this passage and the practices of modern faith healers: A. The sick person isn't brought to some healing service, but is rather healed at home. The elders are called for, not some self-appointed leader or speaker. B. There is no fanfare, rather the person is healed with a great amount of simplicity. C. There are no failures. D. Modern faith healers often excuse their failures as being the result of trying to heal people who don't have enough faith. But note, the prayer of faith includes the "faith" of those doing the healing. 2. If physical healing is the healing under consideration in this section, then it is obvious that such was short-lived in the history of the Church. A. Christians did eventually die ( Heb_9:27 ). B. Not every Christian was healed of their sickness or disease ( 2Ti_4:20 ; 1Ti_5:23 ).
1. There is some evidence that the healing under consideration could be spiritual healing: A. The word translated "sick" in 5:15 is only used of a weariness of the mind or spirit in the New Testament ( Heb_12:3 ; Rev_2:3 ), i.e. a condition of being spiritually tired. B. One can be spiritually exhausted without reaching a point of sinning (5:15). C. The elders would also be the logical ones to call if a person finds themselves in a state of despondency, they do watch for our souls ( Heb_13:17 ). D. The anointing with oil would mean the same thing in both cases (physical or spiritual healing), for it would signal that this person was to get back on their feet and get back into their daily routine of living. E. The confession of sins in 5:16 fits well with the spiritual sickness view, for unforgiven sins and guilt can very easily bring us into a state of depression, apathy, despondency, and a lack of motivation.
Be impressed with the balance in the Bible. Physical illness can be the result of sin and then it is can completely unrelated to sins in our own life. Notice that God says "if". Which means that illness should be used as a time to seriously reflect upon our own lives and our condition before God. God reminds us that besides checking our own physical condition, look well to your emotional and spiritual condition as well.
5:16 "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."
"Therefore" -We have here a connecting link with what has been previously stated. The Greek word translated "therefore" is not found in some Greek manuscripts but it is found in many. James has already linked healing and confession of sins together in 5:15. While every physical disease is not the direct result of our sins, some can be traced to sins which are kept hidden and persisted in. The guilt which sin produces in the human heart can cause a lot of physical, mental and emotional damage. In the book "None of These Diseases", the author has a chapter entitled, "Upset Mind-Sick Body". He points that anxiety, probably places more stress on the heart than any other stimulus, including physical exercise and fatigue. Through such things as worry, anger and guilt we can literally make ourselves sick. Man wasn't designed by God to be a vessel to carry around guilt. See Psa_32:1-5 ; Psa_38:1-8 for a good description of how unforgiven sin can make us miserable, physically and mentally.
"confess your sins" -"Confess"-'to confess forth, freely and openly" (Vine p. 764). "Be in the habit of confessing your sins" (Roberts p. 220). James here uses the present imperative of continuous action. "We are not to wait until we are ill to do so" (Roberts p. 220). Unfortunately, at times we wait until our guilt is so unbearable, and suffer needlessly before we are willing to repent. Too many of us think that we can live with and get by with some sin in our lives. "Sins"-(KJV "faults"), "false step, transgression, sin" (Arndt p. 621).
Points To Note:
1. "Because sin is so pervasive in human life, there is continual need for both spiritual sensitivity and appropriate action where sin has been committed" (Kent pp. 191-192). 2. Draper notes, "'Confession' in the original language comes from a Greek word meaning 'to say the same thing' or 'to agree with'. When we confess sin to God, we are agreeing with God's assessment of our lives. We say the same thing God says to us" (p. 164). 3. Hence when we confess our sins we need to be honest and call such things what God calls them. In addition, it doesn't do any good to overstate the case and say things like, "I'm just no good, I can't do anything right, others would be better off if I were dead". Because such statements are not what God thinks about us.
"to one another" -"reciprocally, mutually" (Thayer p. 28); "each other, mutually" (Arndt p. 39).
Points To Note:
1. Carefully note that Jam_5:16 is not teaching an arrangement in which confession is purely one way, i.e. one person does all the confessing and all the time. It is assumed that all Christians will commit sin from time to time ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ). 2. From other passages we learn that we especially need to confess our sin(s) to the person we have wronged ( Mat_18:15 ). That our confession is to be as public as the sin committed. There is nothing inherently in the word "confess" itself which indicates whether the confession is public or private, or how public or how private. I believe that Mat_18:15-17 can be used to demonstrate that the confession needs to be only as public as the people who know about the sin. 3. Other people don't have the inherent power to grant forgiveness ( Act_8:22-24 ), and yet there are times when we might feel that we need the prayers and encouragement of others to overcome a particular sin. In this case we might pick a strong Christian whom we could trust, who would pray with us and help us to overcome a particular temptation ( Gal_6:1 ). In the context of Jam_5:1-20 , the elders of the Church would constitute a group of individuals who would be qualified by their wisdom and experience to give us spiritual encouragement.
"When sinning has occurred, the confession required here is not to a priest but 'to one another'" (Kent p. 192). The Private confession of sins before the priest alone was made compulsory by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 A.D.). Auricular Confession is based on a couple of wrong assumptions: A. The priests are the successors of the Apostles, when in reality the Apostles had no successors ( Act_1:20-26 ; 1Co_15:8 ). B. Jesus gave the Apostles inherent authority to decide human conditions for forgiveness, i.e. how many and what and which good works were needed to be performed for such and such sin? The truth is that the Apostles revealed the divine terms of forgiveness ( Joh_20:21-23 ), which are faith, repentance, confession and baptism for non-Christians, and prayer and repentance for Christians ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ). Note that the confession in Jam_5:16 includes a mutual obligation. Roberts notes, "The Roman Catholic doctrine of Auricular Confession has no support from the passage. In the first place, 'elders' here does not refer to a priestly set of workers. Elders here are not given power to absolve a sinner or to set conditions on which he may be forgiven. The only conditions of forgiveness are those laid down in the gospel of confession and repentance….Finally, 'to one another' means that any brother chosen may rightly hear the confession and make intercession ( Gal_6:1 )" (p. 221).
Another abuse of this passage is seen in what has evolved from the Crossroads Movement, to the Boston Movement, to the Discipling Movement, to the International Churches of Christ Movement. Whether they are called Prayer Partners or Discipleship Partners, the concept is the same. Wherein a Christian is set over you and it is your duty to confess to that specific Christian all your sins, and yet that Christian doesn't confess any of their sins to you. In this system there is another abuse, that is, the sins you confess are not kept in confidence and forgotten, rather they are relayed up the chain of command. Kent reminds us, "This passage is not sufficient warrant for an indiscriminate and continuing baring of the soul to others, with perhaps the temptation to outdo one's comrades in the number or magnitude of things confessed. It does suggest that specific wrongs should be made to those who have been wronged, and that sinfulness that was public and has tainted the whole church should be confessed before the church" (p. 192).
"and pray for one another" -that is, keep on praying for one another. "Praying one for another is the key to what God wants to do in our lives. It is hard to be mad at someone for whom we are praying. It is hard to be unkind and cynical toward someone we are praying for" (Draper p. 164). Paul often requested prayers from his brethren on his behalf ( Php_1:3 ; 2Th_3:1 ; see Act_12:5 ; Act_8:20-23 ).
"so that you may be healed" -the word "healed" is used of both spiritual and physical healing. Forgiven sin can certainly help a person feel physically better, one might even live longer if they get rid of the guilt, but the healing here is probably more in the line of being healed from your sins. Woods notes, "An impenitent person would not likely call for the elders of the church….God will not bestow his blessings upon those who insist on maintaining a barrier between themselves and him" (p. 306). In this section it is at times hard to distinguish physical and spiritual healing and that might have been intentional on God's part. For it is very hard to sin without that affecting you in some physical sense. The world has bought into the myth that we can remain physically and emotionally healthy while spurning God. That our physical, emotional and mental health is completely unrelated to our spiritual health.
"The effective prayer" -"effectual fervent prayer" (KJV); "in its working" (ASV). "to display activity, show oneself operative" (Thayer p. 215). "to work in, be active, operative" (Vine p. 232).
"Prayer" -"a seeking, asking, entreating, entreaty" (Thayer p. 126); "primarily a wanting, a need, then asking, entreaty, supplication" (Vine p. 200). "Used of a specific kind of prayer, an earnest entreaty for something" (Roberts p. 221).
"of a righteous man" -that is a person who is right with God. This letter has already helped us to define such a person. They patiently endure under trials (1:2-4); ask God for wisdom (1:5); pray with confidence (1:6-8); are quick to listen, in control of their tongue and anger (1:19-20); humbly accept the teachings of Scripture (1:21), are doers of the word (1:22ff) and so on. God has made it clear that He isn't impressed with the prayers of the hypocritical (1:6-7; Isa_59:1-2 ; Pro_15:8 ; Pro_15:29 ).
"can accomplish much" - "effectual fervent prayer" (KJV); "Great is the power of a good man's fervent prayer"(TCNT); "has great power in its effects" (RSV); "An upright man's prayer, when it keeps at work, is very powerful" (Wms); "Powerful is the heartfelt supplication of a righteous man" (Wey). means: "to be able, can" (Thayer p. 309); "to be of force, to be effective, capable of producing results" (Vine p. 90); "have power, be competent, be able" (Arndt p. 383); "Has much force, present active" (Robertson p. 66). "great force" (Woods p. 307). "Be powerful or mighty, and then to prevail, to win out" (Roberts p. 222).
Points To Note:
1. Thus a prayer that can accomplish much must first be prayed by a righteous individual. In addition, such a prayer can accomplish much because it is a working prayer, an earnest prayer, a prayer that is the result of someone who is earnestly petitioning, praying, entreating, the action of prayer with is actively and persistently engaged in ( Luk_11:5-8 ; Luk_18:1-8 ; Mat_15:21-28 ). An effectual prayer is then a persistent prayer and hence a very fervent prayer. "a righteous man's praying has great effect when he prays" (Kent p. 193). Draper notes, "A man whose life is a holy life, whose life is consumed with the desire to love and serve God, who walks with and lives for God, will have power in prayer. We have no power in prayer if we have no righteousness in life" (p. 165). Remember, the true power doesn't merely lie in the prayer, but in the God to whom we pray. 2. This verse and others make it clear that thought God knows what we need before we pray ( Mat_6:8 ), lukewarm, doubting, insincere, hypocritical and apathetic requests are an insult to God and will not be answered. If we aren't truly serious and intent upon that for which we pray-then why should God take such a request seriously? "The action of prayer must be earnestly and persistently engaged in. God does not want to interpret our own desires and thoughts; he wants us to express them. Prayer is often an unused asset" (Roberts p. 223).
The Example Of Elijah
5:17 "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months".
"Elijah" -Elijah was a real historical person! The connection between this verse and the previous verse is an answer to a question any reader might have. "Well, how much can such a prayer accomplish? How much can it avail? Really--- what can such prayers really do?" God puts us on the spot. Here is God's challenge to the skeptical Christian or the Christian who says, "Well I know that praying will make me feel better….and that is about all I expect from my prayer life." "Prayer can build you up and give you a better perspective, but it really can't accomplish much more than that."
"was a man with a nature like ours" -"of like feelings or affections" (Thayer p. 445). "Of similar feelings, circumstances, experiences with the same nature" (Arndt p. 566). Compare with Act_14:15 "We are also men of the same nature as you". Note, Elijah wasn't a super-human or a god. "the Jews of the intertestamental period developed an exaggerated opinion of Elijah, making him a mysterious heavenly figure, as they did Enoch and Melchizedek. Peter had to correct Cornelius by telling him that he was also a man ( Act_10:26 )" (Roberts p. 224). The same truth could be said about any other hero in the Old Testament. Abraham, Noah, Jeremiah, Isaiah……were also men just like ourselves. Hence, what they did, we can do, the level of faith they manifested, we can manifest. "he suffered under the same nature as ours. He was subject to the same limitations that we are. He was tempted just as we are tempted. He was liable to commit the same sins that we are…..God is in the business of answering prayers for folks just like us" (Draper p. 167). "These words were penned by James to allay any feeling that the remarkable exploits of this marvelous man of God set him apart from the rest of his fellows, and he could not be regarded as an example of an ordinary person" (Woods p. 308). And neither was Elijah a perfect man, he had his own short-comings, but God heard his prayer ( Rom_11:2-4 ).
"and he prayed earnestly" -"Lit., he prayed with prayer" (Vincent p. 764). "He really prayed. Praying earnestly means really praying, really talking to God, really committing ourselves to God, really communicating with God. Elijah meant business when he prayed " (Draper pp. 167-168).
Points To Note:
1. Therefore, such earnest prayer on our part is certainly not out of reach. For Elijah, a man just like us, a common, ordinary, run of the mill human being, prayed intensely to God and God answered his prayer. Elijah had all the same human limitations which we have and yet he manifested great trust and faith in God. So what is our excuse? Or, to put it more bluntly, what sin(s) are we presently unwilling to part with? What is keeping us from having the same faith? 2. Do we mean business when we pray or has prayer become nothing more than a mere formality?
"that it might not rain; and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months".
Points To Note:
1. Jesus mentions the same time period in Luk_4:25 . 1Ki_18:1 mentions the "third year" and the New Testament informs us concerning the total length of the drought. Elijah had told Ahab, "surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word" ( 1Ki_17:1 ). 2. A good question arises whether this withholding of moisture was the result of a miraculous intervention by God or was accomplished through providential means. The very fact that there are wondrous events in the Bible which could have been accomplished when God set aside natural laws or could have been accomplished when God worked through natural laws ( 2Ki_20:1-7 ), should remind us just how powerful God is even though nothing miraculous may have happened. At times Christians seem to think that since we don't live in the day and age of the miraculous that we have to settle for second best. As if the power of God is greatly limited when He works through natural means, natural laws and natural circumstances. 3. God can heal us, God can protect us, God can open up countless opportunities and God can grant huge requests without working a single miracle.
5:18 "And he prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit."
"And he prayed again" -The Old Testament doesn't specifically say he prayed again, but it is implied in 1Ki_18:42 . "The resumption of the rains occurred following the episode of Elijah with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel" (Kent p. 195).
Point To Note:
Wow! This section of Scripture should really make us reevaluate the faith and effort put into our prayers. This section is encouraging but at the same time a bit intimidating. A. If I am a righteous person, then nothing else matters, God hears my prayers, I am not lost in the great crowd of humanity, I am not forgotten. B. In reality, if I am a righteous person, then I have at my finger tips more influence and power than the Congress, the Military of the President. C. I need to be careful about what I pray for. If I sincerely pray that God would humble this country, break our insistence upon the glorification of the autonomous individual, God might just answer that prayer. God has actually changed the weather in answer to the prayers of His people. Now what is my excuse for being apathetic and neglectful in prayer? And what is my excuse for thinking that I can't do anything or that I can't make a difference?
My Brother's Keeper
"one would expect the close of the letter to offer some sort of summation of the contents, or at least a conclusion based upon the material that has been given….After mentioning in the letter a great many sins that Christians can commit (e.g. favoritism, uncontrolled speech, judging each other, friendship with the world), James indicates that such discussion was not to be taken merely as an academic analysis of church conditions but as a call for action. Those who had strayed from the truth of the gospel and its attendant responsibilities needed to be brought back to proper conduct" (Kent p. 196).
5:19 "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,"
"if any among you" -The people straying from the truth are Christians. We must reject the interpretation that those who are straying from the truth are non-Christians. "Any"-This can happen to anyone, it even happened to some who had been elders ( Act_20:28 ff).
"strays" -that wanders away, to be lead astray, deceived. Whether others have deceived you or you have deceived yourself ( 1Co_6:9 ; 1Co_15:33 ; Gal_6:7 ; Jam_1:16 ).
"from the truth" -which is contained in the gospel message, the Word of God ( Jam_1:18 ). Notice, how a person might stray from the truth isn't the issue, because any straying from the truth on any point of the truth can be equally dangerous. The truth is an objective standard, that can be believed, practiced, obeyed, loved and understood ( Joh_8:31-32 ; 2Th_2:10-12 ; 1Ti_2:4 ). The truth isn't something which is fuzzy, unattainable, mysterious or all inclusive. From the fact that a Christian can stray from the truth, it must be clear that the truth doesn't include every practice or idea in the religious world. It is just as obvious that a Christian can so sin as to end up lost and that God doesn't prevent people from straying. The idea of once-saved-always-saved, or the associated ideas that God would never let a Christian believe false doctrine or that God would have you killed before you strayed to the point of lostness---are all false ideas.
Be impressed that doctrine "the truth" and our relationship with God cannot be separated. Straying from the truth means straying from God! Draper reminds us, "We never backslide suddenly. Slowly and over a period of time it begins to happen until ultimately it becomes a condition of backsliding" (p. 170). At times we think that a major crisis might shake our faith---when in reality, often the devil is having success in wearing us down slowly. Instead of bracing ourselves that that one major crisis in our lives, we need to take a good look at ourselves today and see if we have compromised.
"and one turns him back" -Note, and it only takes "one" ( Mat_18:15 ). Especially, one spiritual and righteous individual ( Gal_6:1 ). "Turns"-"to cause to return, to bring back" (Thayer p. 243).
5:20 "let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins".
"let him know" -Present active imperative. When we see someone fall away or slipping away, we need to continually remember: A. A soul is at stake, eternity for this person is hanging in the balance. B. This is an urgent situation, that demands our best effort, attitude and dedication. C. Even though a person who has strayed might resent my initial efforts---I know that I am doing what God wants done, that I am doing what is best for that individual!
"he who turns a sinner from the error of his way" -Such can be done, this isn't an impossible task! People who stray from the truth can be brought back. Note also that the unfaithful Christian is called a "sinner". "God sees such a one as a sinner 'in the error or his way'. Not that he has merely stumbled in doing wrong, but that he practices sin" (Plain Talk, 16/6/3).
"of his way" -Nobody is forcing this person to defect. And when I sin-those sins are "mine".
"will save his soul from death" -The soul being saved from death is the soul of the person who is brought back to God. The idea isn't that if I bring someone back, I have saved my own soul---because, what if they don't want to come back?! Compare with 1Co_9:27 . I do have the responsibility in going after the erring ( Gal_6:1 ; Mat_18:15 ), but I do not have the responsibility for what decision they will finally make. The death under consideration is obviously eternal death, final separation from God. It can't be physical death, for many unfaithful people live long lives or live just as long as the most devout Christian. And, when a person strays from the truth, they are automatically in a condition of spiritual death. What we are trying to save this soul from is final and eternal separation from God, i.e. hell.
"and will cover a multitude of sins" -"Cover"-"cover, conceal, remove from sight". ( 1Pe_4:8 "because love covers a multitude of sins"; Pro_10:12 ; Psa_32:1 ; Psa_85:2 ).
Points To Note:
1. First of all, when a person is brought back to the truth, their sins of unfaithfulness are forgiven by God ( 1Jn_1:8-10 ). 2. In addition, think about all the sins which will never happen because you were able to bring this person back! Think of the difference that has been made in this person's life and in the world. The difference in what type of husband, wife, parent, child, worker, etc…and this person will be. 3. Please note, when we don't serve God we are not merely sinning here and there, we are living a life in which we will sin countless times without number. A life of unfaithfulness is not merely sinning in one thing or area, when we are unfaithful to God we are being unfaithful to many people, many duties, responsibilities and so on. 4. In addition, the person who comes back is forgiven and his or her sins are not remembered. "The need of the man who errs from the truth is not ignoring him, advertising his situation, exposing, criticism, rationalizing. But he needs help, converting, saving, restoring, counted as a brother" (Plain Talk 18/9/5). "he that is wise winneth souls" ( Pro_11:30 ).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on James 5". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent